This week, the topic pertains to prayer. Almost every religion in the world involves praying to some deity or higher power. However, with so many versions of prayer, the modern individual can get confused concerning God’s regulations on prayer. Contrary to what many teach, there is a wrong way to pray. Isaiah warns the Israelites, “Behold, Jehovah’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, so that he will not hear” (Isa. 59:1-2). God refuses to hear the cries of the unfaithful who turn their backs on Him. Isaiah warns that when Israel needs God’s help, and they cry for His intervention, God will not hear them because they have abandoned Him. Christ says, “And when ye pray, ye shall not be as the hypocrites: for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have received their reward” (Matt. 6:5). Christ warns that the person who prays just to be seen of men will be labeled as a hypocrite! One cannot haphazardly throw up some ‘hail Mary’ and expect God to respect such callous behaviour and thought.
One individual asks specifically about the requirements of prayer in 1 John 5:13-15. They ask, “What does it mean to ‘ask’ according to God’s will?” The passage reads, “These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; that ye may know that ye have eternal life, and that ye may believe on the name of the Son of God. And this is the confidence that we have in him, that, if we ask any thing according to his will, he heareth us: And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him” (1 John 5:13-15 [KJV]). John writes by inspiration to explain that those who believe and obey in the name of God must also pray by His will. With such important issues concerning the will of God in prayer, how can a person know when he/she prays according to God’s will?
One can be sure that his/her prayer comes within the area of God’s will when (1) a person asks for those things which God has specifically said He will give, i.e., food, clothes, shelter, comfort in trials, truth, wisdom, peace, deliverance from the evil one and all the many other blessings from above by means of His providence and Word. Spiritual blessings God gives through His Word (Col. 3:16; Ps. 119:11; James 1:5; John 17:17). Earthly blessings God gives through providence, the divine operation through the natural laws (Rom. 8:28; James 1:17; Matt. 6:33,34). Likewise, God provides earthly blessings and material needs through the family of believers that is the church (2 Cor. 8 and 9; 1 Cor. 16:1-2; James 2:14-17). If God didn’t say He would give it, stop asking for it!
(2) A person has no right to expect God to answer a prayer when the one praying does not comply with the proper mindset. God requires that one be a righteous individual to be heard (James 5:16). Why should God listen when the one praying doesn’t listen? The praying person must have the mindset of obedience and live that obedience, not as the hypocrites. “Now we know that God heareth not sinners: but if any man be a worshipper of God, and doeth his will, him he heareth” (John 9:31). God doesn’t hear the sinner’s prayer, only those who obey and worship Him properly, which might come as a shock to many. God demands that one ask in faith, “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord” (James 1:6,7). A person praying who doesn’t believe or can’t be sure if God even exists will receive nothing of Him. God also commands that one ask for the right reasons. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3). If people ask God for meaningless vanities to bolster their own lusts and arrogance, they will receive nothing of the Lord! One cannot be a friend of the world and a friend of God (vs. 4).
Furthermore, one praying without humility or gratitude believing God owes him/her some petition will have no answer to such arrogance (Phil. 4:6; James 4:6). People instilled with doubt or disgust will pray in anger and demand that God give them some proof of His existence or some miraculous healing believing God owes them this request because they have suffered in life. God doesn’t owe anyone anything because He has given the world everything they need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). God proves ample proof of His existence (Rom. 1:19-20; John 20:31). For those who want more than what God offers, they walk down a path of endless greed and a damning entitlement (Rom. 12:1-3).
Those who seek to be heard of God must learn to trust God’s wisdom and accept His will; God knows and gives what is best for each person that petitions Him (Prov. 3:6; 14:12).